Professor Karin Mika, (along with Ralph Brill), presented at the Fifth Annual Western Regional Legal Writing conference held at Loyola Los Angeles on August 7th and 8th. The presentation was entitled How Students Benefit from Reading Great Writing: Lee v. Chicago Transit Authority, and discussed how the amicus brief written by Ralph Brill in the case of Lee v. CTA (the Third Rail case) is regarded as one of the most persuasive briefs ever written, because it convinced the State of Illinois to change its longstanding view that trespassers were owed little in terms of duty. In this case, the plaintiff had many adverse facts to overcome, including that the decedent who was electrocuted was a foreigner, was intoxicated, was electrocuted at an inner city crossing, and did wind up being electrocuted after trespassing beyond a sign saying “Keep out.” Moreover, the odds were against the plaintiff because the suit was being brought against the railroad, which rarely lost.
This year, Professor Mika used the Third Rail brief to demonstrate concepts in brief writing, especially when dealing with adverse facts. Professor Mika asked the students to pinpoint what made the brief so convincing, and also articulate what they could take from this brief to improve their own writing. Professor Mika and her students discussed how attorneys make the decisions they make when arguing issues before the court, and strategies of style and organization that give attorneys a chance to convince a court to find for their clients when it seems unlikely at the onset that the court would be inclined to do so.